Maternity leave has flown by and now you are headed back to work. Time to delve into life as a working mom and create the perfect pumping schedule at work for you and your baby! But how often should you pump at work for your baby? And what pumping schedule should you stick to for the best results?
Finding the right balance between work responsibilities, pumping sessions, and maintaining your sanity can feel like a puzzle at times, but fear not! We will discuss everything you need to consider when creating the perfect pumping schedule for you and your baby.
As a working mom, I have learned a thing or two along the way about pumping at work. While it never works out perfectly, I was able to continue breastfeeding my son until his first baby through creating a simple pumping schedule that I tried to stick to as best I could.
Let’s chat about all things pumping schedules and how to create one for yourself! There will even be several sample pumping schedules to help guide you on your way at the end.
Pumping Schedule for Working Moms
When I first started back at work, I had really no idea where to start when it came to making a pumping schedule. To be honest, I really had just gotten the hang of breastfeeding and now I was thrown back into the world of reality! The routine I had mastered was changed quite literally overnight.
If you are planning on continuing to breastfeed your baby as a working mom, pumping is an essential skill to maintain your milk supply.
What are your rights to a pumping schedule as a working mom?
Before you head back to work, it is important to remember the rights you have as a pumping mom. In the United States, the PUMP Act was updated in 2022 to clarify the rights of working women. It required that employers provide employees with two important things for pumping:
- A place to pump in private that is not a bathroom
- A “reasonable” break time to pump that is not during their lunch break
While reasonable is not officially defined in the law, here are some guidelines to help you.
It is best to have a conversation with your employer prior to heading back to work if you can about your plans to pump at work. This ensures that there will already be a place set up for you prior to your return if there is not already pumping moms at your workplace.
How much breastmilk does a working mom need?
Really as much as you can get for your baby!
Heading back to work is a very big life change and any sort of change in your daily routine can have significant impacts on your milk supply. Because you never know what is going to happen, it is best to have a stash in your freezer to continue supporting your baby as long as possible.
Whether your child is being taken care of by a partner or daycare, unfortunately more breastmilk will probably be wasted than you would like. Bottles go unfinished, spilled, and more milk is thawed then you end up using in a day. For all these reasons it is better to be safe and stash as much milk as you can to prepare for later.
There are also so many other great uses for breastmilk aside from nutrition that you baby can benefit from. You can put leftover breastmilk into baths or on their skin for rashes, or even to make commemorative jewelry. But that’s a chat for another day!
How to create your pumping schedule?
The best rule to follow is you want to pump each time your baby would typically breastfeed. But it gets a little more complicated than that. Here are a few things to consider when creating your pumping schedule:
- How long is your workday? – This is pretty self-explanatory, but you will need to pump more often on a longer shift than a shorter one.
- How old is your baby? – If you are just heading back into the work force your baby will probably be eating more often than older infants. You will want to pump with a schedule that matches the needs of your baby.
- When will you have time to pump? – Depending on your job it may be easier to get away for a pump session than for others. For example, if you work a desk job in a private space it may be easy to set up your pump any time of day just in your office. When I went back to work as a nurse, I had to make my pump breaks fit what was going on with my patient at the time and had to adjust my schedule based off when I could reasonably have another nurse look out for my patient.
- Where will you be pumping? – Is the location where you pump easily accessible? Or do you have a long commute you will need to pump during?
- Is your work close to your baby? – You may even be lucky and have a job where you could leave and breastfeed your baby during the day. If this is the case, take your baby’s regular nursing schedule into consideration when planning your pumping schedule for the day.
How many times should you pump during the work day?
This is definitely just a suggestion, but here is the number of pumping sessions based on how long you will be away from your baby to work into your schedule when you first go back to work:
- 4 hours: 1 pumping session
- 6 hours: 2 pumping sessions
- 8 hours: 3 pumping sessions
- 12 hours: 4 pumping sessions
- 12 hours +: 5 pumping sessions
This is just an estimate, and you can adjust your pumping schedule based off your answers to the questions we discussed above.
How long should each pump session be?
This is going to vary from person to person, but a general rule of thumb is a 15–20-minute session should be sufficient for many to empty their breasts. Please don’t take this too much to heart though. Every mom has different needs, and you should figure out what works best for your pumping schedule.
Practice with your pump. Try out different suction settings and speeds to find what works best for your body. You may learn that some combinations can empty your breasts more efficiently than others or that your preferences change depending on the time of day. Do whatever works best for you!
In a perfect world, you will be able to pump exactly according to your pumping schedule each time you are at work. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Things may come up at work preventing you from sticking to your pumping schedule and you may need to be flexible. Whether it be a meeting, client, or other responsibilities just like life with a newborn, heading back to work can be unpredictable. That is ok!
If you can’t stick to your pumping schedule and you find yourself pumping less frequently, try lengthening your pumping sessions to make up the difference. Just stay consistent as best as you can, and you should be able to make up the difference.
Read Next: Pumping Basics for New Moms
Sample Pumping Schedules for Working Moms
Below are a few sample pumping schedules for working moms. While I don’t cover every job, hopefully this gives you an idea of how you can fit it into your daily schedule at work.
9-5 Job with daycare
This category fits a lot of working mom schedules and can easily be adjusted for an early or later start time. If your child is being watched by a partner or other family member the daycare sessions can easily be done at home as well!
6 :00 am– Morning breastfeeding
8:30 am – Breastfeed right before daycare drop off
11:30 am – Late morning pump session
2:30 pm – Midafternoon pump session
5:30 pm – Breastfeed at pick up
Continue with nightly routine
Day time job with a lunch visit
If you are lucky enough to work close enough to day care (or maybe even work from home) it may be possible to sneak in breastfeeding sessions throughout the workday rather than pumping, especially for a longer lunch break.
7:30 am – breastfeed before leaving for work
10:00 am – Pump
12:30 pm – Breastfeed
3:00 pm – Pump
5:30 pm – Breastfeed when returning home
Continue with regular nightly routine
The early shift
If you leave before your baby wakes up in the morning there is no need to wake them up just to breastfeed. Simply add in a pumping session first thing in the morning before you leave for work. Then you can leave the bottle out ready for baby when he wakes up.
5:00 am – Pump before leaving for work
8:00 am – Pumping session
11:30 am – Pumping session
2:30 pm – Pumping session
5:00 pm – Breastfeed upon returning home.
Continue with nightly routine
Nurse (Night Shift)
I couldn’t do a pumping schedule without including what I used when I went back to work after maternity leave with my son. I worked night shift most days, but you could also very easily flip the time to fit a day shift schedule.
5:00/before work — Nurse before leaving (or pump if the baby was not awake)
9:00 — Pumping session
1:00 — Pumping session
4:00 — Pumping session
7:00 — Home and nurse the baby
While this is not the type of job that you could continue working while in the pumping room, having a set of wireless pumps saved the day more time than I can count. I used these because they were overall the quietest motor of the several I have tried. I just told my patients to excuse the noise explaining that I was pumping, and they were all super supportive. This could also work great if you are at the desk and catching up on charting or other tasks.
There are so many other jobs out there with unique hours, but hopefully this gives you a starting point to create your own pumping schedule for heading back to work! And remember, these are just guidelines. There are several different ways to adjust your pumping schedule to fit your needs and the needs of your baby. Just try out a few different options and see what works best for you.
If you are heading back to work and having a hard time making a pumping schedule work for you feel free to reach out! I would love to help you come up with a plan to best fit you! You can get in touch with me using the form below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Heading back to work after maternity leave is difficult. There is no sugar coating it. But you are doing an amazing job mama, I just know it! Give yourself a little grace and patience. You will rock the working mom life in no time!